What is anxiety and how can you deal with it?

What is anxiety and how can you deal with it?

In this article, we provide you with all the information you need to be aware of anxiety, spot the symptoms, and find ways to improve your mental health.

The last few years have been difficult for many of us, with many unforeseen circumstances that we could not have imagined. It's no surprise, then, that our anxiety levels are at an all-time high. However, there's a difference between feeling anxious and experiencing an anxiety disorder, and we're here to clarify what it means to experience the latter.


This article will explain what anxiety is, the main physical and mental symptoms, the different types of anxiety disorder, the main causes and ways to deal with and treat anxiety. Whether you're looking to help a loved one or improve your own mental health, we hope this article can give you some guidance.


What is anxiety?

You've probably heard about anxiety many times, but what does it actually mean to experience it? Anxiety is a common mental health problem that refers to a constant state of worry or showing an excessive amount of fear. Everyone worries about things from time to time, but suffering from anxiety means that anxiety has a debilitating effect on your daily life.


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the world, with the World Health Organization (WHO) suggesting that 1 in 13 people worldwide suffer from an anxiety disorder. So if you're dealing with one, know that you're not alone. Anxiety is more common in women and young people, which can be due to a number of reasons. While women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than men, 7.2% of 5-19 year olds experience an anxiety condition.



Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety symptoms will vary depending on the disorder, but most anxiety conditions will include some or most of the symptoms detailed below. The following symptoms will be most accurate in depicting people suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).


Physical symptoms

- Feeling dizzy or light-headed

- Sweating or feeling warm

- Increased heart rate

- Panic attack

- Gastrointestinal problems

- Rapid breathing or hyperventilation

- Nausea or painful stomach

- Aches and pains in your body

- Feeling weak and tired

- Insomnia

- Changes in sex drive


Psychic symptoms

- Feeling nervous, irritable or tense

- Bad mood and depression

- Experiencing a sense of impending danger or fear of the worst

- Constantly worrying about things

- You need reassurance from other people

- The feeling that everyone is watching you

- Derealization: a form of dissociation where you feel that the world is not real or that you are not connected to it

- Depersonalization: a form of disconnection where you don't feel connected to yourself, as if you are being watched from an outside perspective.


What are the main types of anxiety?

There are many different anxiety disorders, but we will discuss four of the main types in this article. Other anxiety disorders that we won't go into detail about include OCD, PTSD, separation anxiety, and agoraphobia. For help and more information about these disorders, see Mind, a UK mental health support charity.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This is the most common anxiety disorder and GAD is often what people mean when they say they have anxiety. People with GAD feel anxious and worried most of the time, not necessarily as a result of being in a stressful situation. They often expect the worst case scenario and find it difficult to control these negative feelings.


This anxiety is enough to have a negative impact on their regular life as it causes uncontrollable anxiety that can make them unable to focus on what they need to do. It can also cause problems with relationships, sleep, eating and work. Worries are usually not related to just one issue, but instead relate to many aspects of a person's life.


Social anxiety

Social anxiety or social phobia is a disorder that causes an intense fear of being in social situations and performing in front of others. Even in normal situations that would not normally cause anxiety, someone with social anxiety may fear being laughed at, humiliated, attacked, or judged by others. They may feel very uncomfortable when they are in large groups of people or stuck with people they don't know very well.


Some of the most common scenarios where social anxiety can strike include meeting new people, dating, public speaking, starting conversations, and eating in front of people. Some of these things may sound unnerving, while others may not, but for someone with social anxiety, they can all feel traumatic.


Panic disorder

You've probably heard of panic attacks before, but you may not know that panic disorder is a mental health problem where you experience repeated and unexpected panic attacks. This can be extremely disruptive to everyday life and any panic attack can be a truly terrifying experience.


A panic attack often occurs unexpectedly and causes symptoms such as shaking, palpitations, hyperventilation, and dizziness. Sufferers feel an immobilizing fear that overwhelms them and sometimes worry that they will pass out or die. To ease your worries, you can't die from a panic attack. Simply having a high level of anxiety can make you feel like you're in danger.


Some signs that you may have panic disorder include worrying for a long time after you have experienced a panic attack that it might happen again, worrying that the panic attack is actually a sign of a medical problem (such as heart disease ) and avoiding certain behaviors or activities that may trigger a panic attack.



People may often joke that they have a phobia about something, but phobias are actually a fairly common type of anxiety disorder that should be taken seriously. When you have a phobia about something, you are completely terrified of it and will irrationally exaggerate any danger in your mind.


Some people don't even need to be near the phobic stimulus, but just the thought or sight of it on the screen can trigger an excessive amount of fear or even a panic attack. Often, people with phobias know that their fears are irrational, but this does not prevent them from feeling anxious.


Some of the more common phobias include pteromerchanophobia, which is the fear of flying; claustrophobia, which is the fear of closed spaces; and entomophobia, fear of insects.


What causes anxiety?

There is no one obvious cause for concern. Rather, it's usually caused by a mix of different things related to your personality, upbringing, and life circumstances. Below we will look in more detail at the potential causes of anxiety disorders.



Evidence shows that if a close relative has an anxiety disorder, you are more likely to suffer from one too. This fact may be the result of a mixture of nature and nurture, but there is some evidence that genetics may play a role. A 2015 study of twins found that having the RBFOX1 gene can increase someone's chances of developing GAD. A separate 2016 study showed that the presence of specific genes may be linked to GAD, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder.


On the topic of biological causes of anxiety, our brain chemistry also plays a role and is linked to our genetics. Many scientists believe that anxiety is partly caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA.


Decreased levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression, as this neurotransmitter strongly affects mood. Low amounts of dopamine can have a similar effect on anxiety, as dopamine affects the amount of energy a person has, although too much dopamine can also create feelings of paranoia.


An imbalance of norepinephrine can cause a problem because this chemical is released during the fight-or-flight response when the body reacts to stress. Finally, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) stops the brain from overstimulation and calms the nervous system. Evidence from a 2003 study suggests that low amounts of GABA can cause anxiety.


Childhood experiences and traumas

As with most mental health issues, negative childhood experiences or past traumas can cause anxiety disorders. In some cases, it may be a single incident such as the death of a loved one, an assault, or witnessing something traumatic. Alternatively, anxiety can be caused by repeated negative experiences such as physical or emotional abuse or bullying.


In these cases, anxiety is often the result of your brain and body forming strategies to deal with past traumatic events. Especially when there has been a pattern of negative experiences, the brain can begin to expect something bad to happen. This expectation can lead to constant fear and anxiety.


It's worth noting that you don't have to have experienced something really bad to have anxiety. Many people with anxiety can't trace it back to past events, so don't feel like you're exaggerating your feelings if you can't either.


Current life situation

Anxiety can also be caused by everyday stress. These factors may not seem stressful, but they can easily affect mental health. Things in your current life situation that can cause anxiety include money worries, relationship problems, stress at work, caring for a loved one, or a layoff.


Until recently, we lived in a global pandemic and the stress of COVID-19 has caused a huge increase in anxiety, especially among young people.


Another common cause of mental health problems such as anxiety is a physical illness or injury. The stress of dealing with a physical illness can really take its toll, especially when you consider the pain, financial toll, and increased difficulty doing everyday things.


Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines

Sometimes anxiety can be triggered or caused by a certain drug or too much alcohol, so sometimes there is a connection between addiction or alcoholism and anxiety. Additionally, some medications for physical or mental illnesses can have side effects, including anxiety. We have listed some of these drugs below:


Cure for Parkinson's disease

Medications with caffeine



Thyroid medicine

Medications for ADHD

Medications for asthma


How to deal with anxiety?

Below we have listed some tactics you can use to deal with anxiety symptoms. These methods cannot replace professional help, but they can offer you peace of mind when you need it:


Breathing and attention exercises. There are many techniques you can use to calm yourself, and we have several mindfulness courses that will teach you some of the best methods.

Distraction with friends, family or hobbies. Sometimes we just need to be around people who love us, or spend time doing hobbies that distract us from feelings of negativity.

Using self-care strategies. Some of our favorites include taking a bath, lighting candles, listening to soothing music, and meditating.

Exercise. It might be the last thing on your mind, but exercise releases endorphins and reduces stress.

Writing in a journal. Writing has the power to allow you to release emotions, discuss worries, and examine whether or not your fears are rational. Sometimes it really helps to put your thoughts down on paper.

Early to bed. Sleep is an extremely important factor in maintaining mental health, and you need to improve your own sleep.

Eating healthy, balanced meals. The food we eat can have a huge impact on our emotional well-being, as it is literally fuel for our bodies. Try a nutrition class to learn how you can use food to improve your mental health.

Avoid alcohol, drugs and caffeine. Each of these can have a negative impact on your health and well-being, so it may be worth giving them up. Caffeine, in particular, may not seem bad, but it can make someone with anxiety feel very jittery.

Take an online anxiety course. If you want to understand anxiety on a deeper level, we have some great anxiety courses to try or even offer to a friend or family member who has anxiety.

What are some of the treatment options for anxiety?

There are several great options for treating anxiety, and many people receive treatment for it every day. The same thing won't work for everyone, and often people need a combination of different treatments to effectively manage their symptoms. The two main types of anxiety treatments are therapy and medication, and we'll go over your options below. Note that these examples are not exhaustive.


Anxiety therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a type of talk therapy that is often used to treat depression and anxiety and is one of the most successful treatments. It aims to change your thoughts and behavior by identifying and breaking negative thought patterns.

Applied relaxation therapy. This is a good way to deal with the physical symptoms of anxiety and can be particularly effective for panic disorder. This includes identifying potentially panic-inducing situations and learning to use muscle relaxation techniques to help the body calm down.


Medications for anxiety

First, it's worth saying that medication doesn't work for everyone and can even make anxiety disorders worse in some cases. It should only be used if other methods don't work and if the medicine makes you feel worse, you should talk to your doctor and stop taking it. Keep in mind that only an experienced doctor or psychiatrist can tell if you should take medication.


Last words

We hope this article has helped you understand anxiety disorders a little better and hopefully you feel better able to help yourself or someone else who may be struggling. Understanding your mental health is so important and a big part of being able to take care of yourself.


If you have determined that you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, do not hesitate to contact a professional. Especially now, when the world is changing, we need to prioritize our personal well-being.


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